At a time when it's fashionable to decry our politics as being unrepresentative, out of touch or even corrupt, let's stop for a moment to praise the fact that sometimes the system works.So what has Jacqui Smith done to demonstrate that she isn't unrepresentative and out of touch?:
I'm referring to the decision, announced to the Guardian by the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, to drop plans for directly elected police authorities.Yes that's right, abandoning plans to make the police accountable to elected representatives just shows how representative the government are!
It is a pity as this was just about the only good idea that the Home Secretary has come up with. Electing police boards to run the local force would mean that the police had to respond to the voters rather than to Whitehall. The reasons given to support the u-turn are pathetic:
It was only when those who really understand the implications – the police themselves, and local authorities – became involved that opposition to the idea started to build.So the opposition was led by bodies with a vested interest in the status quo. Next week after consulting with turkeys the government will decide to ban Christmas.
The Local Government Association pointed out that turnout in these elections was likely to be low, with the result that minority and extremist parties could flourish. Sir Jeremy Beecham, vice-chairman of the LGA warned that far-right groups could end up controlling police authorities, after exploiting the fear of crime.They could in theory, but they are no more likely to win elections to policing boards than to local councils, where turnout is also very low but the BNP have only scant representation. In fact this isn't an argument against allowing the public to elect police boards, this is an argument against allowing the public to elect anyone. The threat of the minuscule and pathetic BNP is being hyped up to justify the centralisation of power and maintaining the current top down mode of government.
What would be the worst that could happen if extremist parties got representation on police boards anyway? The police have recently made the news for arresting an MP for receiving leaks and for the De Menesez inquest completely rejecting their account of the events that led to an innocent man's death so it is hard to see how extremists (who wouldn't win control in any case) would make things worse.
Part of the problem of being governed by a small and unrepresentative political class is that they really do believe that outside of their little cocoon the rest of the country is populated by halfwits and bigots who will end up imposing a Fourth Reich if they are allowed to vote on anything of any importance.
Update: Former councillor John Ward has a post up about the same topic.